Ebony Encounters

Near the edge, she stood, alone, overlooking the green grassy field that sloped down to the stream. Not tall, not assuming and not showy, her simplicity made her even more alluring. As we neared, we could see how callous time had been to her. The years were truly showing – the gnarled roots, the weather beaten bark, the humps where branches once stretched out from. She had stood there for as long as I could remember, stout and unwavering, through the generations, where she provided relief from the elements to many.

After a leisurely walk around the Botanical Gardens, Mum, Wuan and I sought some respite under her outstretched branches. The sun was beginning to scorch down on us. Fascinatingly, it was soothingly cool beneath her domed crown of lustrous green foliage. As we rested, we felt the vigour slowly returning. Despite the buzz of the afternoon crowd, we experienced serenity under her copious shade.

How much she had seen, we wondered. Surely she was privy to the sweet whispers between lovers as they leaned on her. She must have heard the delighted shrieks of children playing catch around her sturdy trunk. Unquestionably, she would also have quietly observed elderly couples reminisce about the years gone by as she unfailingly breathed some youthfulness into them again, as she had done time and again.

Yes, this ebony tree has witnessed them all and will continue to play witness for many generations to come. She knows untold human pain and passion. She knows the joys of being children, the carefree bliss of young lovers and the contentment of couples in their twilight years. Each time we seek refuge under her, she imparts to us a little of her wisdom of the ages. In turn we leave with her some part of ourselves to be silently chronicled, never to be told, never to be revealed.

One day, Wuan and I will retrace the steps that we took with Mum. We want to visit an old acquaintance. Mum left behind some part of herself with her. Wuan and I did too. Perhaps under her outstretched arms, we may discover something about ourselves we never knew. Perhaps under her comforting shadow, I may be able to relive some beautiful moments that I had with Mum and Dad when I was just a little boy trampling all over the green grassy slopes that she had watched over from her vantage point.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

7 thoughts on “Ebony Encounters”

  1. Marita,
    This tree has fascinated me when I was just a toddler and is still doing the same now. When I visit the Botanical Gardens again, I will surely take enough images to create an album.

  2. Awww… Peter, great minds think alike (ahem)! I took my kids to Ipoh/Taiping today and somehow, I was so attracted to the trees along the way. Some look so elegant, some protective, some stout, some fragile. I was telling myself that I must get a better digital camera and take up the hobby of snapping all these rainforest trees, wild and cultured (I mean planted in the gardens). I found some lovely white lotus in Taiping Lake and remember your signature purple one. But yikes, my camera is only 1.3 MP (malu) and it was too dark for photograph. BTW, love reading this Ebony Encounters. You make everything so alive.

  3. Peter, your Ebony Encounters remind me those beautiful essey worte by well known novelist from China–like a poem, it swirl in my mind beautifully, what a good read :-).

  4. Lilian,
    Old trees are interesting characters, to me at least. I grew up among trees in Ayer Itam and during weekends among towering ones in Sungai Pinang in my uncle’s plantation. Now that I am living in an apartment, I long to be amongst trees again. By the way, the signature flower here is a water lily.

    Thank you. When I think of the Botanical Gardens, I am always reminded of that ebony tree. She is sort of stuck in my mind maybe because I am reminded of the good times of many decades ago.

  5. “Poems are made by fools like me,
    Only GOD can make a tree……….”

    Words that are part of a beautiful song that came 2 mind….maybe you cld google that?? :o))

  6. Pauline,
    What a beautiful poem. Here it is:

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.
    A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
    Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
    A tree that looks at God all day
    And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
    A tree that may in Summer wear
    A nest of robins in her hair;
    Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
    Who intimately lives with rain.
    Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.

    ~Joyce Kilmer, “Trees,” 1914

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